Airport privatisation now highly unlikely

It now seems highly unlikely that the sale of a minority stake in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport will take place in the remaining two months of this cabinet period.

Amsterdam city council has blocked the sell-off and months of legal battles between the city and finance minister Gerrit Zalm now appear to be inevitable. ‘It is a shame, but I will not witness the privatisation of Schiphol as finance minister in this cabinet,’ Zalm told MPs, reported the Financieele Dagblad.
The long-awaiting privatisation process has been thwarted by Amsterdam which owns just over 20% of Schiphol. The council has blocked the change in the airport’s statutes which is necessary to go ahead with the sale. Zalm, who wants to sell 49% of the airport to institutional and private investors, has decided to officially quash Amsterdam’s decision. Amsterdam has the right to appeal – a process that is likely to take months. The sell-off has already been approved by parliament. ‘We need to make it clear whether a city council can frustrate national policy,’ Zalm said. The government owns 76.8% of Schiphol, Amsterdam has a 21.8% stake and Rotterdam city council the rest. The privatisation of Schiphol has been a thorny issue since 1995, with the airport arguing privatisation is vital to enable it to expand abroad. If a left-centre coalition emerges after the November general election, the issue is likely to be put on the backburner once again.

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